5 Tips From A Virgin Filmmaker’s 1st Time

I recently had the opportunity, thanks to Raindance founder Elliot Grove, to go into production on my short film “Wake Up”. I’ve written a number of spec scripts, both short and feature-length, however this stands as my first produced screenplay.

What was also new to me was that I found myself standing in the director’s shoes as well.

The ride was exciting and challenging, sometimes awkward and frustrating, sometimes exhilarating and positively validating – all one’d expect a first time to be when one doesn’t really know what to expect at all! So for anyone out there about to embark upon a similar journey or wishing to, here are 5 things I can share from my experience that may help you…

1. Team – Cast & Crew

It’s team effort that makes a film and the importance of having a great team around you cannot be underestimated. This rings true for any production, but when you have a tight deadline and a low budget, it makes its presence known in leaps and bounds. Having people you can trust, that band together for the common vision, that are exceptional at their job and own reliable equipment (even if it’s not fancy schmancy), is priceless!

2. Cast

It sounds obvious, but I want to stress here the value of getting the right actors for the roles. Once again, this is important for any production, but when time is tight you need to know that you have an actor who can just flick the switch and find that part of them that already is the character, because it’s this actor who can go in there and nail the takes one after the other, time and time again. In relation to the time constraints on our production, we just wouldn’t have completed our shoot if we didn’t have this. Auditions are where this should make itself apparent, so hold those auditions!

3. Coverage and CU’s

It’s imperative to get every line in your film shot, otherwise you’ll need an editing genie to grant your unfinished film a story without holes. Next on your list of prominence is to make sure you have a number of cut-ins and close-ups to play around with. Getting that balance of shots right can be tricky when time is ticking away, but it’s something you can only fully judge when you’re on set. Understanding the importance of having a great cast and crew will shine through here. As well as the next pointer…

4. Preparation and Adaptability

My eyes were pried wide open by how much preparation needs to happen before one steps foot on location.

If you prepare as much as you can beforehand, it definitely makes the ride a much smoother one. It’s also important however to bring the skill of adaptability with you so you are able to move forward with filming even though the unexpected has arisen.

On our set we were aware that drilling noise may be an issue, but we didn’t expect it to sound as if they were coming through the wall, and that’s what we were faced with the morning of our second day of shooting. We set up as usual and proceeded to shoot all the cut-ins and close ups that didn’t require sound. This is a simple example, but the important thing is always to lose as little time as possible, if any at all. If you are prepared and can adapt to unforeseen or troubling circumstances, you are well on your way to being a filmmaker extraordinaire!

5. Space

This one is for anyone who has held back on production because of space issues -it’s surprising just how much you can do in a small space.

It goes without saying that for some shots size is an issue, and some spaces are just not suitable for what you may need to create. But for those of you who always seem to be saying I can’t do this or that because I don’t have the space, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your priorities and define your core goals.

We nearly lost our shoot location because filming was delayed and a new stage set had been built in place of where we were going to film. We chose to make another section of the space work for us instead, shooting most of our film on a 1 ½ x 5m partially raised stage. Sometimes you can end up holding yourself back indefinitely because of space issues. Perhaps you need to raise your limits and allow yourself to be more imaginative with what you’ve got in order to take that all important step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s a case of allowing yourself to move forward, so bigger and better things can happen from there!

Have you just lost your filmic virginity? Have any thoughts/lessons you’d like to share? Please enter them into the comments box below.


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